Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Route 10 possibilities unveiled

Transportation study also examines adding high-density development

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— A grand plan for Route 10, albeit it at this point only a conceptual one, would transform the busy stretch of roadway from New Haven into Hamden into a tree-lined bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly corridor tied together with ambitious new multi-use development and hubs to promote mass transit.
That was the rendering at a South Central Regional Council of Governments meeting Tuesday, where urban planning and traffic consultants hired to create a set of recommendations to address transportation needs and deficiencies described that vision and sought community input.
Some highlights included bicycle lanes or offset multi-use paths up Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Dixwell Avenue in Hamden to promote multimodal transportation; landscaped medians to slow traffic; strategic transit hubs to promote seamless commuter transfers; and private, high-density redevelopment at various points, including an unrecognizable Hamden Plaza strip mall where new retail and commercial space would sprout from up from much of the oversized 10 acres of asphalt parking lot.
“In the end, it’s a study, a set of recommendations that the city and the town can use to move forward,” explained Jeffrey Parker, of New Britain-based Clough Harbour and Associates. Indeed, some of the suggestions would fall outside of the purview of municipal or state government and on private developers.
Some aspects, like two four-lane roundabouts on the Boulevard at Legion Avenue in New Haven and Dixwell at Putnam Avenue in Hamden, were more exercises in traffic engineering, perhaps a long-term concept, since the cautious state Department of Transportation isn’t ready to embrace four-lane circles, Parker acknowledged.
The SCRCOG commissioned the study, which is near completion, for $110,000. At this point, there is no funding secured to put any plan into play.
Route 10 starts at Interstate 95 at Exit 45 and bends and turns all the way up to Haverhill, N.H.
The stretch in question starts in New Haven at I-95, moves up Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, along Whalley Avenue for a short span, onto Fitch Street past Southern Connecticut State University, Arch Street in Hamden and then onto Dixwell Avenue along the “Miracle Mile” commercial district to Skiff Street.
CHA examined the eight-mile stretch block by block. Many of the recommendations employed increasingly popular traffic calming measures to slow traffic and make it more safe for bicyclists. But the plan also called for pockets of new, dense development that would mix retail, office and residential space to create a walkable, vibrant place.
One was in Westville Village in an under-developed surface lot behind Blake Street and Whalley Avenue and another possible site at Fitch and Arch streets. The most ambitious was the Hamden Plaza, where David Sousa, an urban planner for CHA, said the square footage of usable space could be doubled or tripled through, even quadrupled with smart development.
Thea Buxbaum, a Westville activist, questioned how developers could fill the new space, given all the residential and retail development already happening in New Haven, and all the current vacancies.
The new 293-unit Wintergreen of Westville apartment is only about a third leased. Sousa said the high-density development, mixed-use development promotes walkability and increased foot traffic.
“I hate the word synergy but you have this synergy going. People on the streets. People living there. More walkability. So you get more patronage.”

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